Sun And Moon, Ice And Snow
by Jessica Day George
Blessed—or cursed—with an ability to understand animals, the Lass (as she’s known to her family) has always been an oddball. And when an isbjorn (polar bear) seeks her out, and promises that her family will become rich if only the Lass will accompany him to his castle, she doesn’t hesitate. But the bear is not what he seems, nor is his castle, which is made of ice and inhabited by a silent staff of servants. Only a grueling journey on the backs of the four winds will reveal the truth: the bear is really a prince who’s been enchanted by a troll queen, and the Lass must come up with a way to free him before he’s forced to marry a troll princess.
Fairytale re-imaginings. By now, everybody reading these reviews knows just how much I love them. Give me a fairytale, retold and repackaged, and I will definitely read it.
I was skeptical about this one, though. Partly because I did not recognise the tale it was adapted from, partly because the title made me pause? I am not sure – it seemed to have nothing to do with the story. And disconnected titles always confuse me, if I am honest.
But I know I enjoy the author’s writing style. I have since the first time I picked up one of her books. She uses clear language to invoke emotions and images and I adore the way she weaves her characters together and makes the reader care for them all. I have never, not once, not enjoyed her protagonist’s points of view. And that does not happen to me very often. (I always have points in time when I want to swat the protagonist over the head because they are being an idiot, but even when Jessica’s heroes are being idiots, they are being loveable idiots, and you cannot help but root for them. Also, A+ for strong and stubborn women fighting for the me in their lives.)
The lass, or pika, is a sweet and sensible young girl with a gift for talking to animals – blessed as such because of her tender heart in helping out a mystical white reindeer. And she only seemed out the reindeer to make a wish for her oldest brother’s happiness. (By this point, I could already tell I was going to like her.) The youngest in a large family of a poor woodcutter, her mother never names her, which in their time and home can be dangerous.
I have never come across the Norwegian folktale from which the novel has been adapted. But from what I can tell, Jessica took the bare bones of the story, and fleshed it out. A young girl who can speak with animals agrees to accompany a polar bear, or isbjorn, to a palace and stay with him for a year in exchange for her family’s living conditions to be improved. In the process, she finds out that her oldest and dearest brother’s sadness is connected to the situation she has found herself in.
Honestly, I love the relationship between the lass and her oldest brother. It is very organic and realistic – they truly trust and care for one another. There is a mutual respect and love and understanding, and part of the lass’ reason in trying to figure out the secrets of the palace she is living in is so that she can find out the cause of her brother’s unhappiness and fix it. Her entire focus is on helping her brother and her family – and as she grows closer to the isbjorn, him as well. She is warm-hearted and determined, and though she makes mistakes, she attempts to learn from them.
While there are very few layers in the characters of the novel, the simplicity of the story is my favourite thing about it. It is straightforward and beautiful in that.
Definitely one to read if you are looking for something like Beauty And The Beast, with a different colour.